So, recently, I wrote a few blog posts covering the basics of existentialism and I was extremely quick, as I recall to jump on the ol’ “Existentialism is a Humanism” argument. It occurred to me, however, as I sat here reading Gogol’s Dead Souls, that many people may not necessarily be aware of exactly what humanism is. If that sounds patronising, then I’m sorry, but I didn’t know what it was until I did some research on it a few years ago – although it wasn’t really surprising when you consider the actual name of the ideology itself.
What Is Humanism?
Primarily – and this will come as a major surprise to, well, no one – but humanists typically believe in people. Humanists believe that Homo Sapiens can live “good lives” without the need for external, religious or other superstitious and spiritual beliefs. Humanism is a practical ideology, in a way, as it encourages us to be aware of the fact that we have only one life and we should do our best with it to spread all the love that we can, that we should use our time on this earth with reason, that we should value human life above all else. Humanism tells us that we should live happy lives whenever possible, and ensure that we leave the world a better place than that which we found it.
Humanism As An Existentialism?
Now, although it’s already been said that existentialism is a humanism, it might be just as accurate to state that humanism is, in fact, an existentialism. For example, humanists aren’t born with haloes around their heads or in shimmering white robes, nor are they carried out of the hospital in Grateful Dead t-shirts with bandannas around their heads and weed clasped in their tiny,, professional fingers.
Humanists suffer from the same “existential” worries and questions as everyone else – all the common ones, from “Why am I here?” to “What’s the purpose of life?”, “What will happen to me when I die?” and “Is there really a higher power?”. Whereas religious or spiritual people will look for their answers from their God, Humanists will typically look for evidence that they can believe in – humanists typically make decisions based on reason and intellect and experience above all else; so most people say anyway, I’d actually dispute that, but we’ll come to that later.
Humanists, according to this perception of the ideology, are more likely to be swayed as a result of their open, hungry mind always looking for the most logical answer. Humanists tend to absorb the evidence and consider these big questions for themselves, whether that leads them into the grey stone chapels or the grey stone office buildings to look for meaning.
Humanism And Religion
Without evidence to some of these bigger questions, humanists don’t believe in the existence of God. Personally, I tend to think that one cannot believe in people and Gods at the same time, so if humanists were swayed, by their logic and evidence to believe in a higher power, then they wouldn’t be humanists at all – the ol’ Catch 22!
However, in the absence of God, at least Humanists have to find reasons within themselves or society to live their god lives – which puts them one step ahead of religious people at any rate.
So, What’s The Problem With Humanists?
Now, this is only my personal opinion (and even then it’s kind of half-arsed), but I tend to consider Humanists as sans-knowledge. They’re blank slates, in a way, automatons dedicated to logic and sensibility and they’re so desperate to love their lives and make the world a better place that I would hardly call them human in of themselves – Humanism may well be loving all of humanity but, not only is that a horrible thing to do (as loving everyone essentially means you don’t love anyone, and that is no way to live your life) but they cannot really love themselves by denying their stupidity and their emotion in favour of logic. Humanist don’t believe in anything except other people – in a way, there are some links between Humanism, Humanism as I perceive it anyway, and socialism.
Humanism And Solipsism
In the past, I have had no problem calling myself a humanist, but I’m a humanist in the sense that “I believe in people” – not logic, not sensibility; I believe in people and all the stupid, fury that entails. However, with echoes of solipsist in my head, I can’t really prove that anyone else is human. For all I know, I could be the only human there is and, if I define myself as human, no one is exactly the same as me, therefore how could I define anything else as a human?
Of course, I’m aware that there are holes in that argument, but here we come to major crux of solipsist humanism – there’s no piercing it until I can see that there is another human in the world; and that is practically an impossibility. Maybe that’s why I like art and expression and literature and music so much – I’m just looking for a human.
Anyway, what do you think? Do you have a different definition of Humanism to me? Are there any glaring, humanist points that I’ve missed out on? Do you think religion and humanism could possibly co-exist?